First Looks: Creative Zen Neeon 2 (1GB)

Creative Strikes Back. Again.

Creative Strikes Back. Again.

Not satisfied with surprising the industry with the tiny ZEN V, Creative debuted yet another digital audio player in an extremely short span of time – the ZEN Neeon 2. As successor to the ZEN Neeon series, Creative hails the ZEN Neeon 2 as its latest poster boy that boasts a slimmer waistline, inbuilt radio, 1.5-inch CSTN (Color Super-Twist Nematic) display as well as video playback capabilities – almost completely similar to the nimbler ZEN V.

A New Zen

Sticking close to its predecessor's design, original ZEN Neeon users will immediately feel at home to the Neeon 2's similar, albeit more elegant aesthetics which consist of a glossy scratch-resistant plastic face mounted upon a matte back-plate. Trimming its overall size, the Neeon 2 only measures 81 x 42 x 12.5mm and is roughly comparable to Apple's iPod nano although a tad bit more plump. Also kept in tradition to the original Neeon player is a navigational jog-dial that can be found on the top right side of the slim player. Only this time round, the jog-dial struggles to keep its head above water by barely being able to accommodate a more extensive navigation system; navigating the menus can be downright confusing with the Neeon 2's limitation of just one button and takes a lot of getting used to. In fact, this might also explain why Creative has notably omitted the useful keyword search ability that we have since grown fond of.

Look Within Zen

After testing the Neeons 2's tiny 1.5-inch CSTN screen for a bit, the novelty quickly wore-off as the eye squinting took its toll; we had expected the Neeon 2's screen to be somewhat bigger than the ZEN V’s rich OLED display, but were a little disappointed with a somewhat similarly sized offering despite a larger physical form to work around with.

Not stopping there, the Neeon 2's CSTN screen also suffered from white light bleeding along the sides and a relatively poor viewing angle - a slight glance to the side is all it takes for the display to lose its color composition. On the upside the Lithium-ion Polymer battery within handled the screen pretty well with up 8 hours of video playback and 20 hours of audio playback.

Zen After the Storm

Although the ZEN Neeon 2 outshines its predecessor (the ZEN Neeon), its outstanding features are almost completely similar to the ZEN V – such as its inbuilt radio, video playback ability and its tiny profile. In fact, when both Neeon 2 and ZEN V are compared side by side on paper, they seem almost identical. With that in mind, Creative might have just diluted its own market by featuring two, although great, but similar products within the same market segment. The only obvious differences between them would be the Neeon 2's slightly lengthier profile, longer battery life and distinct ability to sell a greater variety of official Creative skins and customizations - to the delight of Creative's marketing department of course.

Final Thoughts

Although a sterling digital audio player when compared to the majority of players out there in the market, the latest Neeon 2 offering from Creative is anything but the revolutionary 'Creative' gadget we had anticipated. While you could even more or less label it a clone of the ZEN V with almost similar features, it is hard to justify getting the larger Neeon 2 1GB over the ZEN V Plus 1GB with a similar RRP of S$179 - especially with the Neeon 2 having a slightly inferior CSTN screen and clumsy navigation.